The Best Car Waxes: Protect Your Car and Keep It Looking New (2022)

How We Tested Car Waxes

Choosing the best of the best car waxes is no easy task, so The Drive teamed up with professional detailer Ryan Prantil and put six different types of car waxes to the test. For each wax, we looked at how easily it could be applied and removed. We then checked out the finish for smoothness, durability, water-shedding protection, and that all-important new car shine.

Each of our best car waxes takes a different approach to protection and shine. But whether synthetic polymer, all-natural paste, or hybrid ceramic, all delivered a quality finish. Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax took across-the-board high scores, while the others scored higher in their own way.

Ease of use is as important as the end result; waxes that are difficult to apply and remove do not encourage regular use. Overall, we found the hybrid ceramics more challenging to work with and less forgiving than carnauba or synthetic waxes. You need to pay close attention to application instructions and drying times with hybrid ceramics.

Another look at our test product lineup from liquid synthetics, traditional carnauba paste, spray-on, and hybrid ceramic waxes., Mike Bumbeck

We couldn’t test every car wax on the market, but we have used a few over the years. Traditional favorites like Turtle Wax Hard Shell Finish and Formula 1 (formerly KIT) carnauba paste waxes deliver great results without breaking the bank. Stepping up to the mid-price bracket brings a broader range of choices like Mothers California Gold Pure Brazilian Carnauba in liquid or paste, and Chemical Guys Butter Wet Wax carnauba creme. If you want to know more about our testing procedures, click this link and read on.

The Best Car Waxes: Protect Your Car and Keep It Looking New (1)

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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Best Best Car Waxes Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Car Wax Overall

Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax

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Meguiar's has been in the car care business for a century, and Ultimate Liquid Wax lives up to its name with a combination of value, ease of use, and results like the paint on this nearly 40-year old motorcycle tank. The liquid car wax is formulated to be easy enough for beginners, and it delivers shine and protection that will satisfy long time car care aficionados.

The liquid wax was easy to apply and remove. A thin coat dried to a haze in five minutes and came off with about five seconds of hand buffing. The synthetic polymer blend can be applied in direct sunlight and won't leave residue behind on non-painted trim pieces. Shine and protection are comparable to traditional carnauba car wax and can hold up longer between applications.

Some car care purists don't consider synthetic polymer blends real car waxes even if the deep shine and durability are superior. Polymer bonding car wax technology might not be on the cutting edge as ceramic formulations enter the market. Still, Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax is a versatile performer and worthy addition to any car care kit.

Best Traditional Car Wax

P21S Concours Look Carnauba Wax

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P21S Concours Look is a premium car wax containing the traditional blend of natural carnauba wax with beeswax as a softening agent. All the Carnauba wax in the entire world is extracted from the leaves of palm trees native to Northern Brazil. P21S selects the highest grade Carnauba wax for its dye and fragrance-free formula.

The only paste wax in our test went on as smooth as the liquid competition and quickly dried to a visible haze that came off as easily. The premium formula delivered an unparalleled shine that left no powdery white residue behind. Water beaded up and quickly rolled off P21S Concours Look.

Carnauba is the only car wax for many automotive purists. Traditional blends like P21S require more frequent application than modern synthetic polymer or hybrid ceramic waxes. The premium car wax demands a premium price, but a small quantity delivered impressive shine and protection and even gave our 38-year old Toyota econobox a concours d’elegance look.

Best Synthetic Car Wax

Carfidant Ultimate Liquid Wax

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Carfidant Ultimate Liquid wax is a synthetic polymer-based product designed for professional results in an easy to use consumer-friendly package. There are many polymer car waxes on the market, but Carfidant delivered on its promises with shine and protection that rivals premium carnauba paste wax.

The liquid wax was easier to apply and remove compared to its synthetic polymer competition. A small quantity of liquid wax went a long way. After 20 minutes of drying, Carfidant came off with minimal effort and left paint smooth to the touch with a deep shine and superior water-repelling hydrophobic protection.

This liquid wax was on the thick side out of the bottle, but it spread thin with predictable consistency. Shine and protection nearly matched traditional carnauba wax with a synthetic polymer durability advantage. Carfidant claims up to 12 months of protection, but longevity will vary by vehicle condition and operating environment.

Best Hybrid Ceramic Car Wax

Meguiar’s Hybrid Ceramic Liquid

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Meguiar's Hybrid Ceramic promises cutting-edge ceramic protection in a product that's as easy to use as traditional liquid car waxes. Ceramic coatings offer a durability advantage over synthetic polymer or carnauba car waxes. Silicon dioxide, or silica, acts as a glass-like sealant layer to protect the finish and repel water.

Meguiar's Hybrid Ceramic smelled faintly of blueberries and was simple to apply and remove after just five minutes of drying time. Shine and protection were on par with the synthetic polymer and carnauba competition. Even with its relatively quick drying time, the liquid formula was easy to use and won't leave residue behind on plastic or unpainted trim.

Best Ceramic Car Wax

Ethos Pro Ceramic

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Ethos Pro Ceramic wax promises 3-in-1 performance as a wax, polish, and sealant in one bottle. The liquid blend of proven synthetic polymers and the latest ceramic coating technology was designed to provide shine and protection for up to an entire year from a single application. No water or special tools are required.

The liquid appeared thin at first glance but left a thicker layer of material compared to our other test waxes. After the recommended 20 minutes of drying time, the dried-over haze was challenging to remove and left some streaking that required additional effort. Shine and water repellency took a respectable spot in the middle of the car wax pack.

More Recommendations:

If you own a vehicle with a dark painted finish, you need a wax that’s specifically designed for the unique needs of this paint. This carbon wax contains 37% carnauba wax for the deepest shine possible. It stands out because it also has several other oils and ingredients to nourish, shine, and protect your vehicle’s paint. This includes banana, coconut, and montan oil. It comes in an eight-ounce jar with an included applicator. You’ll appreciate how easy this wax is to apply with an application and buff process.

One drawback of this wax is that the container it comes in is smaller than other waxes on this list. This can result in it not lasting as long. The formula also doesn’t contain any specific UV protectants. Without them, your dark paint can be vulnerable to fading.

Make quick work of waxing your vehicle with these easy-to-use wipes. These wipes are easy to use for even the most novice beginner. There’s no messy paste can, no overspray from liquid waxes, and no keeping track of a separate applicator pad. Each wipe in the package comes pre-treated with plenty of wax. You’ll love the one-stop application process; just wipe on and be done with no buffing required. Each package comes with 12 extra-large wipes. The resulting finish has a long-lasting, high shine.

Unfortunately, these wax wipes may not be for everyone. They are susceptible to heat, so you may not want to keep them in the garage. Also, if your vehicle is extra-large, then you may need more than one wipe.

This easy-to-apply spray wax uses a refined Brazilian carnauba wax. You’ll find it simple to spray on and wipe off to reveal a deep shine with a wet look finish. What makes this wax stand out is that you can safely use it on paint, glass, clear plastic, metal, and wheels, making it a one-stop shop for detailing your car. The formula cures fast to prevent dust from getting trapped in the wax and dulling the finish. This wax will protect your car’s paint from spots, contamination stains, and UV rays, keeping your paint looking new for longer.

A potential issue with this wax is that it does have a banana smell to it, which can be unpleasant or unsettling for some people. However, the scent does go away as the wax cures.

You’ll love the squeeze-style container that this wax comes in, which makes it easy to cleanly dispense the correct amount of wax and preserve the rest for future use. The wax formula is fortified with natural carnauba gel wax. It comes in a large 18-ounce bottle, which is plenty for several applications. You can safely use this wax on all types of finishes, including paint, chrome, and fiberglass. Working this wax in the paint will help to remove minor scratches and blemishes. Once cured, it will protect your paint from UV rays that can fade and damage the paint.

Unfortunately, you may find the gel harder to work with when trying to get an even application on your car. It also may not achieve the same deep shine that other carnauba waxes can achieve.

Applying car wax should be an enjoyable, relaxing experience that delivers a rewarding shine. A clean foam applicator sponge helps lay down a consistent layer of wax., Mike Bumbeck

Car Wax Buying Guide

A properly applied coating of car wax will help keep small pieces of debris, dirt, and sand that cause paint scratches off your paint. Wax acts as a shield that deflects these scratch-causing villains, helping your paint stay pristine. And regular waxing adds a protective layer that helps stop tree sap, smashed bugs, bird feces, and other road grime from sticking to your paint. Wax repels standing water that leaves hard-to-clean spots behind. Here's what you need to know before clicking Buy It Now.

Types of Car Wax

Natural

The most popular type of wax is natural wax formulas. These waxes tend to be harder and are made from the Copernicia Cerifera palm tree, also known as carnauba. There are two quality grades of carnauba wax: white and yellow. The yellow kind is pure plant wax and is the most expensive option since it achieves a high shine and is very protective. True car enthusiasts and those who own dark-painted vehicles swear by it. The white kind is a slightly lower grade, making it more affordable. There are also carnauba-based synthetic waxes. These are even more affordable but aren’t purely natural wax and won’t achieve the same high-quality results. The downside of any natural wax is that it only lasts a few months before requiring reapplication.

Synthetic

Thanks to modern science, we have synthetic waxes that are an artificial formulation. They typically contain chemicals that bond with your car’s paint and can last for up to a year. Some synthetic formulas will also contain cleaning agents, which strips away any contaminants or residues that could prevent bonding. Synthetic waxes are good because they are more affordable than all-natural carnauba wax and easier to apply. Their downside is that they simply can’t achieve the same results as the high-quality natural wax.

Paste

Car wax comes in three types of formulas. The oldest type is a paste, with textures that range from very hard to a soft buttery consistency. Typically, paste wax tends to be formulated from natural waxes, which helps it to achieve a higher shine and deep luster. Unfortunately, it tends to require more frequent applications than liquid or spray formulas. Because it’s typically made from natural wax, it also tends to be more expensive than the other formulas.

Liquid

You’ll like the smoother texture of liquid wax over paste versions. Liquid formulas are typically synthetic or a synthetic and wax formula, which helps them to be longer-lasting. You may also find this style of formula to be harder to apply. Liquid wax tends to dry faster than paste, so you’ll need to work in smaller sections or work faster. You also need to carefully read the labels because some liquid waxes are abrasive.

Spray

Spray waxes are fast and easy to use, making them popular among car owners. This type of wax is suitable for those who want to spot treat areas on their car. You will find many spray formulas have additives for special treatment needs, such as fixing swirl marks, hiding blemishes, or boosting shine. Unfortunately, spray waxes don’t last as long as the other options. However, it’s easy to get a consistent application, and they are usually non-abrasive.

Key Features

Application Method

Think about how much time and effort you want to put into the application of wax on your vehicle. If you enjoy spending time working on and detailing your car, then you’ll want to look for a paste wax made of natural carnauba wax. If you’re looking for a quick and easy solution, then a liquid or spray will be a better option. You’ll also want to check for compatibility with a buffing machine since some waxes require you to apply them by hand.

Longevity

The longer your wax application lasts, the less often you’ll need to apply the wax. Natural waxes don’t last as long as synthetic formulas. However, this may not be an issue if you prefer the finished look of natural wax. Don’t blindly believe the manufacturer’s claims because these are timeframes in the most favorable of conditions. The more extreme your climate and the more often you wash your car will reduce the longevity of your wax application.

Container Size

The larger the container of wax is, the longer it should last. However, this isn’t always true. Some waxes require more product for an even application, which reduces how many applications you can get out of a single container. You should also consider how stable the product is: natural wax formulas could melt and separate in heat, while synthetic formulas may begin to separate in the bottle. You’ll then be stuck buying a new container of wax before you’ve finished the last one.

Car Wax Pricing

There are car waxes that span the gamut of price, but they all top out at under $50. If you're just learning how to wax a car yourself, don't spend more than $15. If you're a professional detailer, well, why are you listening to us? You know how much you should spend. What you need to know is that you won't break the bank when purchasing a good-quality car wax.

Tips

  • Prepare your paint. Thoroughly wash and polish your car before applying wax for the best and most satisfying results. Car wax is always the finishing touch.
  • Avoid waxing in direct sunlight. Apply wax in the shade on cool painted surfaces with a dedicated foam applicator or manufacturer's recommendation.
  • Start with a thin coat of wax on a small section and allow it to dry to a haze. Multiple thin layers are better than a single thick coat.
  • Work in sections. Apply and remove wax on one section of the vehicle at a time. This will help you get a feel for the wax and see the rewarding results as you go.
  • Wax regularly. A good waxing routine will make it easier to keep a protective coat on your paint all year round.

FAQ

Q: What’s the difference between waxing and polishing a car?

Polishing a car can correct swirl marks, remove oxidation, and smooth out the paint surface. A hand or machine polish prepares the paint for its protective wax coating. Washing and polishing the vehicle before applying wax delivers the best results.

Q: How long does wax last?

This depends on the specific product, the environment where you live, and how frequently you drive. In general, natural waxes do not last as long as synthetic polymer blends or ceramic hybrids that can endure for up to six months or longer in ideal conditions.

Q: Is carnauba wax the best wax for a car’s exterior?

Not necessarily. Some prefer natural carnauba wax for its deep, warm shine that intensifies with each additional layer. It has some trade-offs, however; it doesn’t tend to last as long as synthetic waxes.

Q: Can I wax a new car?

Of course. Check with your dealer or manufacturer first, but as long as the new paint is fully cured, you can wax a new car just like any other vehicle. New cars are detailed before delivery, so developing your own car care routine helps keep your new ride looking showroom fresh.

Q: What kind of wax should I use on a white car?

Do not use wax specifically formulated or dyed for use on dark-painted vehicles. Choose a wax that’s safe for all paint types. Most car waxes are safe for single- and two-stage base coat and clear coat paint.

Q: How do I know when I should wax a car?

At least twice a year is the general recommendation but check the wax manufacturer's recommendations and take the vehicle's operating environment into account. Harsh environments demand more frequent applications.

What’s the difference between waxing and polishing a car?

Polishing a car involves removing layers of dirt, debris, and old wax from the surface of a vehicle. The process does nothing to protect the paint like wax. Therefore, you usually polish the vehicle first after a wash, then apply the wax to protect the smooth surface.

How long does wax last?

This depends on the specific product, the environmental conditions around you, and how frequently you drive. In general, most waxes last a few weeks to a month or two. More durable waxes can last up to six months if you make sure to properly maintain the protection coat.

Is carnauba wax the best wax for a car’s exterior?

Not necessarily. Most people associate natural carnauba waxes with the deep shine they can produce; a shine that intensifies with more carnauba wax layers. It has some tradeoffs, however, like its longevity since it doesn’t tend to last as long as synthetic waxes.

Can I wax a new car?

Of course. As long as the paint and clear coat have been cured properly, you can wax a new car just like any other vehicle. This can be a good first step and routine to develop since it will prolong the looks of the car from day one.

What kind of wax should I use on a white car?

Except for dyed waxes that can alter the color of the paint, nearly all car waxes can be used on white vehicles. With that said, many manufacturers offer specifically formulated waxing solutions.

How do I know when I should wax a car?

This depends on your preferred waxing product and how long they last. In general, once every three to six months is normal if the wax lasts that long. For waxes with shorter lifespans, once every few weeks is the better routine.

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